By CRAIG PAYNTER

Wanganui's Heritage weekend on January 19-21 was an obvious choice for the St Andrew Kilwinning Lodge to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Freemasons' lodge.

As the name suggests, the St Andrew Kilwinning Lodge was formed under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and was formally constituted on January 10, 1868. The lodge since joined the New Zealand constitution on May 12, 1892, but proudly retains its Scottish ritual, custom and practices, including the option to wear Scottish attire and partake in Celtic fare.

The founding fathers of the city are well represented in the membership of The St Andrew Kilwinning Lodge and a glance at the honours board will show most of the streets and parks in town. Members have included two governors-general; one prime minister (John Balance); two Members of Parliament; one Victoria Cross recipient and several Wanganui City mayors.

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The weekend's events were attended by a number of out of town guests and several overseas visitors came from as far away as Brisbane, Melbourne and Malaysia.

A highlight of the weekend's activities was the opportunity for the members to be able to visit the former Bell Street Lodge Rooms. The old building has been sympathetically converted into a home and working artist/glass studio, while still retaining many of the original features of the lodge building.

In the early days, the lodge met in many different buildings around Wanganui including the Rutland Hotel, Oddfellows Hall and the Institute Building, before a purpose-built lodge rooms was constructed in Bell Street and consecrated on April 18, 1884. The Bell Street Lodge rooms served as the home of the St Andrew Kilwinning Lodge until the final meeting on St Andrews night in December of 1998, following which the lodge moved to a modern single-storey building on the corner of Dublin and Keith streets.

Due to the significance of the milestone, the weekend of celebrations included an official visit from the NZ Grand Master, Most Worshipful Bro Mark Winger, who presided over the ceremony of rededication of the lodge and formally presented the members of the lodge with a jewel to commemorate the occasion. The formal part of the celebrations concluded with a formal dinner attended by lodge members, their partners and guests at The Grand Hotel on Saturday evening. The weekend's festivities concluded with a barbecue lunch at the Bason Botanical Gardens where mayor Hamish McDouall guests and overseas visitors.